Opinion Former Article

Unlock Democracy: Brown's constitutional bingo call is no substitute for reform

Commenting on the Prime Minister's statement on constitutional reform, Deputy Director of Unlock Democracy Alexandra Runswick said:

"This afternoon, Gordon Brown was reduced to performing the role of a bingo caller, listing a whole series of potential reforms yet offering almost nothing of substance.

"It is a crushing indictment of Gordon Brown's premiership that we have made almost no progress on democratic renewal since the Commons statement on the subject he made at the start of his tenure two years ago. Today was an opportunity for him to end the drift and announce specific reform. He has blown it.

"We welcome much of the rhetoric about, for example, a written constitution. But the rhetoric itself has now become part of the problem - it has become a substitute for action.

"If Gordon Brown is serious about giving the public a role in democratic renewal he must allow Martin Caton's Citizens' Convention Bill time to be debated in the Commons."

Commenting on the Prime Minister's statement on constitutional reform, Deputy Director of Unlock Democracy Alexandra Runswick said:

"Both Gordon Brown and David Cameron need to be honest here: the electoral system did not elect extremists in the European elections last week; a small minority of voters did. A mature democracy does not brush this problem under the carpet and allows it to fester but confronts extremism head on.

"Politicians are the worst people in the country to decide on the electoral system because their decisions are bound up by self-interest. They are entitled to their views, but if they are serious about change they must allow the public to arbitrate on how it elects its representatives."

The Citizens' Convention Bill received its first reading in the House of Commons on Monday (8 June). Supported by a cross party group of MPs (Martin Caton, David Drew, Jim Dowd, Norman Lamb, Julia Goldsworthy, Norman Lamb, Norman Baker, Douglas Carswell), the bill would establish a citizens' convention of randomly chosen members of the public to look at ways to make the UK political system more accountable. Among other things, it will bring forward proposals to:

  • Bring elected representatives to book when they step out of line;
  • Change the way in which Parliament is run to ensure that the government is properly held to account;
  • Decide on our electoral system.

To stand a chance of becoming law, the government will have to allow it time in Parliament to be properly debated and scrutinised.



(1) Unlock Democracy is the UK's leading campaign for democracy, rights and freedoms. It was formed in 2007 and is the successor organisation to Charter 88 and the New Politics Network.

(2) For more information, contact James Graham on 020 7278 4443 / 07966 237550.

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